Your Experience with Academic Writing

Homework #1: Your experience with academic writing

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A big part of this class depends on your writing essays and posting them using the attachment feature below. I would like you to write a paragraph in response to some of the following questions and submit them to me using the dropbox. You don’t have to answer all of them.

How would you describe your experience reading academic prose (the kind of non-fiction, expository writing you often get in school)? What about writing it? How much have you written in your college career? What is it like for you to write an essay? What is difficult? What are you confident about? Finally, what do you hope to get out of this course?

In our culture, we are surrounded by writing. This is becoming more and more true as computers become more and more ubiquitous. In fact, we, as a culture, maybe writing more now than at any other time in our history. For example, smartphones have people writing all the time. Texts, tweets, Facebook updates, etc. are all forms of writing. In this class, however, we are not going to write just anything. Specifically, we are going to practice writing academic essays. What are these?

The term “essay” refers to a particular type or genre of non-fiction writing. The term “academic” refers to the particular set of expectations and conventions that you need to keep in mind as you write these essays.

Generally speaking, essays refer to a relatively short, focused written examination or study of a specific thing. This analogy might help. Think of an essay as a magnifying glass. Use it (as a reader, as a writer, or as both) to look in detail at a specific thing or set of things. Usually, a magnifying glass does not allow you to see an entire scene. Rather, it allows you to focus on a specific aspect of it in detail. If you have a very broad topic, write a book. If you have a specific or narrow topic to explore in-depth, write an essay. For example, the history of China is so broad that it demands a book-length treatment with various chapters to do it justice, but the influence of the Boxer Rebellion on international trade is so specific that you could write a sharp 5 or 10-page essay about it.

“Academic” refers to the conventions that you ought to follow as you write and craft your essay as well as the expectations your readers (including the folks who are going to grade you) are going to bring with them. For example, some of the conventions of academic writing are that it follows a certain format or template (like MLA for example), that the writing is revised and edited, that it analyzes and synthesizes information instead of only reporting or summarizing it, etc.

If it hasn’t yet, you will find that writing plays a large role in your college education. Often, students are asked to write in order to demonstrate what they have learned or their ability to apply that knowledge to something new. This will usually take the form of an essay. Regardless of whether or not you are in a history course, business accounting class, or chemistry lab, the basic forms are the same. In this course, you are going to practice this basic form and also some critical thinking and reading as well.

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